People started showing up hours before the presidential candidate took the stage at the DoubleTree hotel in SeaTac.
Nick Sherwood of Puyallup, Washington, had a simple explanation: "They're Ron Paul supporters."
The Texas congressman inspires a devoted following, and people packed the ballroom where he spoke Thursday until no one else could fit; then they filled the room outside, where they couldn’t hear his speech but chanted his name.
Paul has won plenty of fans for the sweeping change he advocates – a more peaceful foreign policy, a rollback of the federal government, a libertarian approach to personal rights – and he told the crowd the other candidates only offer “tinkering with the status quo.” But there’s a big question about whether those views can build him a bigger coalition and win him the Republican nomination.
“Whether he wins or loses isn’t the real issue,” said Hailey Phillips, 21, of Olympia. “He has encouraged so many people to get up and do something about it.”
Phillips has got to be one of the few people whose high-school graduation present from her mom was a trip to see Ron Paul.
She flew to Minneapolis in 2008 for a rally.
“It was the best experience I’ve ever had,” Phillips said.
State GOP Chairman Kirby Wilbur said Paul has “a pretty good chance” in the March 3 precinct caucuses.
“I think he has a ceiling in terms of supporters,” Wilbur said Thursday, “but they’re all very excited and enthusiastic, and they’ll tend to turn out.”
He’ll compete for supporters with Newt Gingrich; Mitt Romney, who plans a trip to Washington; and Rick Santorum, who was in Tacoma and Olympia on Monday.
Sherwood, the Puyallup volunteer, said, “Fortunately for Dr. Paul, the field is two clones of Obama” plus Santorum, who “is no friend of individual liberty.”
President Barack Obama, the Democrat all four are trying to defeat, comes to Bellevue and Medina for fundraisers today, plus an official stop at Boeing in Everett.
Paul advocated a limited government in his speech.
“Thanks for inviting me to your revolution,” Paul said as he took the stage, introduced by a pair of Washington politicians who have endorsed him, state Rep. Cary Condotta of East Wenatchee and former state Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders.
Paul took aim at intervention into other countries, at the United Nations, at the possibility of aerial drones in U.S. skies, at the idea of allowing the military to arrest U.S. citizens and put them in secret prisons. He said the United States should treat other countries as it would like to be treated – the “Golden Rule” that appeals to those such as Phillips.
“A president can’t and shouldn’t even try to run the world,” Paul said.
He applies the same thinking to government’s role in people’s lives: “As long as people don’t hurt other people and steal from other people and damage their property – it’s your life.”
Paul also rallied supporters in Vancouver on Thursday. He plans Richland and Spokane events today.
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